The Interview: Parks Bonifay

It's pretty damn satisfying seeing Parks Bonifay on top again. His blend of raw personality and power both on and off the water lit up video sections as he blazed through title after title in competition.  Bonifay set the tone for a generation of wakeboarders who put their bodies on the line for the betterment of the sport, leading through example by landing trick after trick that wakeboarding's best are still trying to comprehend. We caught up with Parks after the release of his long-anticipated documentary, aptly titled the Parks Bonifay Documentary, to find out a little more about his past and his plans for the future. Watch the trailer here. Check out the interview here, then pick up a copy of his documentary here. — Craig Kotilinek

How did you become pro? I guess the long story is that I've been trying to become pro at something — whether it be waterskiing or three-event or bare footing — I always wanted to be pro at any one of those things, but wakeboarding just came about. I had really good timing, because I was one of the first juniors — me and about four other people. There weren't a whole lot of kids in it, so it was easier to become pro back then compared to now when there are a hundred kids who can do Moby Dicks. I started wakeboarding, learned some flips, did good at Worlds, then later I wanted to learn all the tricks as fast as I could, and I wanted to build a run to compete on the Pro Tour. I won the Pro Tour and X Games that first year, so I guess I became pro then.

What was your favorite trick when you first turned pro, and what's your favorite now? My favorite trick was definitely the Air Raley. That was the trick that drew me in, and the trick that made wakeboarding different than any other aspect of waterskiing. When I saw that, it was really all I wanted to learn from when I started wakeboarding. It took me forever to learn. Nowadays? I'd say I'm really into wrapped toeside backside 180s. Also some slower spins, like wrapped tricks, have been really fun lately.  And I always enjoy a method.

Who is your favorite rider and why? I would say right now it's Danny Harf. I think he's a lot of peoples' favorite rider right now, and I think it's just because he can take a trick and do it so many different ways. He can think about it beforehand and go out and do it. His riding's always changing. It doesn't even seem like he's riding all the time, but every time I see him ride, he's not only doing something he's never done, but something no one's ever done.

What is the hardest thing about being a professional wakeboarder? I'm not going to lie to you, there aren't too many bad things about being a professional wakeboarder. I love traveling, I love autograph sessions, I love the photo shoots. But doing early morning tube photo shoots when it's cold out is the worst thing. That's when you're sitting in the water and you're like, "I wish I wasn't a wakeboarder right now." There aren't too many times I think that, but sitting in the water waiting for a cloud to pass while it's that cold is miserable.

What would you be doing if you weren't a pro wakeboarder? I'd like to think I'd be a professional baseball player. Before I turned pro in any aspect of waterskiing, I wanted to be a baseball player. I played like 10 or 12 years all through little league and in high school, but playing in high school took so much time that I had to make a decision to either wakeboard and waterski or play baseball. You never know, I wonder what it would've been like if I had devoted all my time to baseball. I probably would've been some washed-up Triple-A third baseman or something.

What is your biggest goal to accomplish in 2010? I really want to do as many good premieres and promote my movie as much as I can. It's taken so many people so long and so much effort, so I want to get out there and promote it as much as I can. I really want to start filming for Pointless again. For the last five years, everyone's had a Liquid Force team video or a Hyperlite team video or my documentary or the Billabong movie — there hasn't been a lot of time for a Pointless video, but now that a lot of us are done, we're really going to focus on making it happen. All of us are really pumped.

What's one thing you couldn't live without on a daily basis? SportsCenter.

Any pets? I had six goldfish, but then a bird came and pecked them all away. He left one with a big hole in his side. They were outside, underneath this tree in a fishpond. Every now and then, I catch the bird out here, creeping through the grass real slow.

As one of the most influential wakeboarders in the sport, what makes you more interesting to watch than another rider? I don't know. I guess I've always tried to go for it as hard as I can, and push the limits of what I could do. Besides that, I've always tried to explore different aspects of wakeboarding, from doing tow-ins in the waves to doing triple-ups and re-entries and different tick tocks — anything that's different and hasn't been done. I just try to keep it moving.

What's your connection with Travis Pastrana and Nitro Circus? I've known Travis for about the last seven years. I've taken him wakeboarding a couple times, and I would see him out at the X Games or Gravity Games. I talked to him when he started shooting Nitro Circus for FUEL TV, before it got picked up by MTV, and he said they were doing all kinds of crazy stuff. He wanted me to get out there but I never really made it. When it got picked up by MTV, he was like "dude, we're doing some wakeboarding and tubing stuff out in Texas", so that was the one we did out at Lake Medina, and that was the first episode we did that I was on. It went really good, so they invited me out for two more shoots last year, and then I just did another one this year, which was the Lake Havasu one that everybody saw.

Why has no one else done your switch double back mobe? I don't know. I think they gotta do a double cab roll first. Actually, I think Rusty's landed one, and Gerry's done a couple — there have been a couple. The week after my movie came out, Bob, Shane, Danny and Jimmy and everyone was all fired up to try some doubles, which I'm stoked on, because I love watching people try doubles whether they make it or crash. I think the double mobe will be done in the next year or two after this new craze of doubles gets some momentum up.

And what year did you land it in? I think it was 2003 or 2004.

In the same vein, why do you think it took so long for someone else to land a 1080? I don't know. It seems like with as good as guys could do 9s off the wake, they'd be able to do it a little earlier off a double-up. And then it seemed like as soon as Danny landed it, it was completely possible. I'm not sure what the barrier was in that seven years. I don't know. It's a weird one. There were a lot of hard tricks being done, and the sport was being progressed in a lot of different ways, except for how far you could spin. I think it could have been done a year or two after I did it if guys really wanted to go learn it. There's a handful of guys doing it now, but the bottom line is a 1080's a really hard trick to do, and there are a lot of guys — including me — who've only done one of them. A lot really has to come together on a 10 for it to happen. A 9 you can kind of squeeze out of a 7 and muscle through it, but a 1080 you really can't muscle through. You have to finesse it, you have to land good, you have to have good rope tension, and you're passing the handle four times — there's a lot of technique that goes into it.

What's an interesting thing most people don't know about Parks Bonifay? I wouldn't say I'm superstitious, but every time I get off an airplane, I pat it on the doorway when I walk off — almost like a thank you pat, like "thanks for getting me on the ground safe." I smack the plane on the ass every time I get out.

Where did your parents come up with the name Parks? It's actually my great grandfather's name.  It was my mom's grandfather's name.

What are your plans for the future? I really want to look into the whole System 2.0 thing, and the stuff Red Bull's going to want to do. I think the avenues for rails are amazing, there's so much out there for doing cable parks right now. Who knows? I definitely want to keep pushing the sport. Whether it's riding or building stuff or just coming up with cool formats or concepts for designs for wakeboards for Ronix. Or with MasterCraft, coming up with bigger boats or different boat hulls. There's a lot I want to do. We went to Germany for Wake the Line and hit that quarter pipe and it was sick. It was like a 10-foot quarter pipe and you would whip at it, and the System 2.0 would stop and you'd do a stall or a little air, and then you'd come back down it and the System 2.0 would take off the other way. It's sick and has so much potential for the future.

What's your middle name? Napier. Actually, it's Nay-pee-yair! It's French.

Who are your sponsors? Ronix, Red Bull, MasterCraft, Fox, Spy and Performance Ski & Surf.

** Photo** Angel Tagudin